Weekly Review — May 5, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Swine flu, renamed under pork-lobby pressure to “influenza A (H1N1) virus, human,” and referred to as “killer Mexican flu” by anti-immigration activists, had infected 985 people, or 0.0000145 percent of the world’s population. Twenty countries reported infections; one death from the flu was confirmed in the United States; and 25 people had died in Mexico, where a cute five-year-old boy named Edgar Hernandez was presented to the media as “patient zero.”SFGate.comUSA TodayThe World Health OrganizationThe GuardianThe New York Daily NewsMexico shut down for five days to contain the illness,The TelegraphChina began to quarantine Mexicans,The Wall Street Journaland Vice President Joe Biden appeared on television and counseled U.S. citizens to avoid airplanes, subways, and classrooms, which led to protests by the travel industry. “I think the vice president misrepresented what the vice president wanted to say,” explained Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.The Los Angeles TimesEgypt, which has no cases of the flu, ordered all its pigs killed, especially slum pigs; police at Manshiyat Nasr slum fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rioting Coptic Christian pig farmers.MSNBCBBCGeneticists continued to sequence the flu’s genes. “Atgaaggcaa tactagtagt tctgctatat,” read the opening line of the segment-four hemagglutinin gene. “Acatttgcaa ccgcaaatgc agacacatta.”NCBI

Recalling September 11, New Yorkers panicked as a spare Air Force One 747, accompanied by a fighter jet, flew low near the World Trade Center site in Manhattan for a White House photo op. President Barack Obama, who is reading the novel Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, ordered a review of the $328,835 flight.The New York TimesThe New York TimesCNNPennsylvaniaSenator Arlen Specter rejoined the Democratic Party after more than 40 years as a Republican. “There’s more than being reelected here,” he insisted. “There’s the factor of principle.”PoliticoJack Kemp died,AP via Googleand Republicans launched an organization called National Council for a New America. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush urged his party to “listen a little bit, learn a little bit”; former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney called the Democrats “the party of the monarchists.”CNNSupreme Court Justice David Souter announced that he was retiring, a decision some attributed to his hatred for Washington, D.C., which he has called “the world’s worst city,”Seattle TimesAP Via Googleand Mr. T was called for jury duty in a drug case in Cook County, Illinois. “If you’re innocent, I’m your best man,” he said. “But if you’re guilty, I pity that fool.”Chicago Sun-TimesMine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby despite 50-1 odds.New York TimesThe New York Times Company decided not to close the Boston Globe,New York Timesand dollar stores were selling more food.BusinessGuided by the Obama Administration, Chrysler filed for a bankruptcy from which it plans to emerge in two months, when it will be purchased by the United States, Canada, the United Auto Workers union, and Italian manufacturer Fiat, which plans to merge with Opel, part of General Motors Europe, to create a massive new car conglomerate. The new company will be rechristened Chrysler but will probably not honor its outstanding car warranties.The Detroit NewsThe GuardianNew York TimesThe United Kingdom pulled its troops out of Iraq.BBC News

Sweden recognized same-sex marriages,AFP via Googleand a senior Buddhist monk in Thailand named Phra Maha Wudhijaya Vajiramedhi vowed to teach gay and transgender Thai monks better manners, which would include the elimination of their pink purses, their sculpted eyebrows, and their revealingly tight robes.BBC NewsSouth Korea bioengineered four fluorescent beagles.AP via Google NewsChild-injury researchers demonstrated a 40 percent rise since the early 1990s in the number of childhood injuries brought on by falling furniture,Eurekalertand a food-service industry survey found that schoolchildren would like to replace lunch ladies with robots.QSR MagazineSri Lanka’s army reportedly killed 91 people at a hospital inside a civilian safe zone; officials blamed the bombing on the Tamil Tigers.BBC NewsPakistan’s army killed as many as 60 Taliban,France24and Kenyan women’s organizations called for wives to boycott sex, and for prostitutes to be paid not to work, until leaders in the coalition government stop feuding.The Financial TimesVeronica Lario, wife of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, announced plans to file for divorce after learning that her husband had attended the eighteenth birthday party of a budding lingerie model to whom he has given jewelry and who calls him “Daddy.” “That surprised me,” said Lario, “because he never attended the eighteenth birthday parties of his own children, even if he was invited.”New York TimesNew York TimesArchaeologists searched sites near Alexandria for the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Antony,The Canadian Press via Google Newsand the Italian container ship Jolly Smeraldo, at sail off Somalia, was able, through evasive maneuvers, to ward off pirate attacks twice in successive days, despite taking on bazooka fire.Lloyd’s ListNine people died when a pleasure boat capsized off Malaysia; the lone survivor, a 14-year-old boy, stayed afloat by using his mother as a raft.Herald SunOfficials in New Delhi were investigating the case of Shanno Khan, an 11-year-old girl whose teacher allegedly forced her to stand in the hot sun for two hours as a punishment for not doing her homework, ignoring Khan when she promised to learn her alphabet and begged for water. The girl fainted and was hospitalized. “I never want to go to school again,” she told her mother, and died a day later.FOX NewsTime

Share
Single Page

More from Paul Ford:

From the May 2010 issue

Just like heaven

Weekly Review March 23, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Weekly Review November 24, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2020

Dearest Lizzie

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Trumpism After Trump

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My Gang Is Jesus”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Cancer Chair

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Birds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Skinning Tree

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Interpretation of Dreams

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Trumpism After Trump·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

Article
The Cancer Chair·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

Article
“My Gang Is Jesus”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

Article
The Birds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

Article
The Skinning Tree·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

In response to a major volcanic eruption, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines vowed he would “eat that ashfall. I’m even going to pee on Taal, that goddamned volcano.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Jesus Plus Nothing

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

Subscribe Today